The fight against corruption — that figured prominently in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s election campaign — would be right at the top of his agenda when Parliament sits for the Budget session from July 7. The Prime Minister’s Office has outlined that the NDA government’s “immediate thrust areas” would be to empower the common man by weeding out corruption through “setting up of the Lokpal, amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act and passing of the Citizens Grievance Bill”.
On June 24, the PMO wrote to the Department of Personnel and Department of Administrative Reforms that “pending action on the above (immediate thrust) areas may kindly be expedited and the office (PMO) may be kept apprised of the development”.
The communiqué is also the first clear indication of what tops the NDA’s legislative reforms agenda as it prepares
to present its 100-day report card August-end. It also goes with President Pranab Mukherjee’s address that the NDA was keen on providing an administration which is clean, efficient and result-oriented.
Although the Lokpal Bill has become an Act, the anti-corruption body is yet to be set up. Officials said all efforts are being made to appoint its chairperson and members before the report card is submitted to the people.
Sources said that by that time, the NDA would also attempt to pass the Prevention of Corruption (amendment) Bill and Right of Citizens for Time-bound Delivery of Goods and Services and Redressal of Grievances Bill, which got held up in the bedlam of disruptions during the last days of the UPA regime.
Efforts by the Congress last March to push them through ordinances got held up over last-minute concerns over whether the President would ratify them a month before the Lok Sabha elections. The BJP and other opposition parties had said that the move was belated and was intended to earn political brownie points for the UPA.
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The Citizens Grievance Bill promotes transparency and accountability in the government’s delivery systems where departments would have to publish a citizens charter detailing the services they offer, its quality as well as timelines of delivery. Failure to do so would attract penalties.
It mandates the establishment, both at the Centre and in the states, of public grievance redress commissions that will be permitted to refer a case for investigation to the Lokpal wherever there is evidence of corruption.
Amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act were also a part of the framework of measures to fight graft. According to the Bill, an investigating agency could seek prior permission from the government to haul up a retired bureaucrat in a corruption case. At present, there is no legal provision for investigating agencies to seek prior permissions to quiz a former government employee.